When are school sports liability waivers enforceable?

Written on behalf of Abramson Smith Waldsmith LLP

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For just about every school sport, you as a parent must sign a liability waiver to allow your child to play. Many parents do not think twice about these waivers. After all, if your son is going to play on the lacrosse team, he needs to have his waiver signed. However, does signing the waiver mean that you cannot pursue any legal action against the school if your child suffers an injury?

The short answer is no. Liability waivers do not necessarily prevent you from suing the school. In extreme cases, a liability waiver may not be enforceable after an injury caused from gross negligence.

What is gross negligence?

A school may commit gross negligence either if they make no attempt to protect a child’s safety or deliberately take actions that put the child in harm’s way. In general, liability waivers are not enforceable in cases of gross negligence.

Howard University’s basketball coach and gross negligence

Recently, a group of former college basketball players filed a gross negligence lawsuit against Howard University’s head coach for his practices. The players claimed that the coach made empty scholarship promises and did not follow NCAA regulations.

The coach allegedly failed to follow NCAA standard injury procedure and routinely made players practice and play injured.

One of the players claims that their NBA dreams were shattered because of the coach’s deliberate and routine actions that neglected player safety.

Gross negligence and liability

A liability waiver will most likely protect the school from liability for any injuries that your child suffers as a result of genuine accidents. However, it will not prevent you from acting if the school is not making an effort to protect your child or is taking actions that directly harm your child’s well-being.

This is good news for parents, as it means that you don’t unilaterally sign away your rights to seek justice against negligent coaches and schools just so your child can play a sport.

Jeffrey R. Smith

Jeffrey R. Smith

Managing Partner

Robert B. Waldsmith

Robert J. Waldsmith

Partner, 1999

William B. Smith

William B. Smith

Partner, 1978

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